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FOR THOSE

who have a stake in reading -- meaning, all who care about the foundations of civilization -- the closing of a bookstore is a sad occasion. Jay's Book Stall has been an Oakland institution since it opened its doors in 1959. No more: Last week the store closed for the last time. The reason wasn't a shift to online buying and the rise of major bookstore chains. It was simply that owner Jay Dantry felt he had enough of selling books as he approached his 80th birthday. Fair enough. But in a city that doesn't have a stand-alone major bookstore Downtown, not since Barnes & Noble left in 2006, the end of a 49-year literary tradition compounds feelings of civic inadequacy. What's a city worth when its people can't easily stroll out to buy a book?

IT WASN'T quite Geraldo Rivera finding almost nothing in Al Capone's vault in 1986, but last week a lack of valuables was the story in the Allegheny County Controller's Office when a 100-year-old safe was opened after being locked for about 35 years. Diebold Inc. of North Canton, Ohio, offered to open it for free after reading an earlier Post-Gazette story. The haul of non-valuables revealed by the opening included stationery, old assessment records, unused ledgers, office supplies and pencils. But some money was involved -- the money the county saved by getting it opened for nothing. A Washington County safecracker had offered $3,900 to do the job -- so in the end county Controller Mark P. Flaherty had reason to smile.

BUILDINGS can be a treasure trove of possibilities for universities that wish to expand -- as Point Park University has proved Downtown. Now it's Chatham University's turn in the East End. Chatham has tentative agreements to buy two properties to handle projected growth. One of them is a three-story building at 6585 Penn Ave., a mile from the main Woodland Road campus in Shadyside. It will be used to house several graduate programs. A smaller building, at Fifth and Maryland avenues, is planned as graduate student housing. This is good news for a good school. If we can't have more bookstores, expanding universities can provide more bulwarks against the book-shunning tide.



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